In Perfect Health (Anca Damian, 2017)
In Perfect Health (Perfect sănătos), directed by Anca Damian, is a movie based on a minimalist script, with a mystery plot. Written by Damian in collaboration with Lia Bugnar, the script develops the story of the accidental (?) death of a judge (Vlad Ivanov), who, despite his perfect state of health, finds his end falling down the stairs of a restaurant, where he attended a social gathering with his peers. The official conclusion of the perfunctory investigation that follows is that the judge died of a heart attack. Right after the judge’s funeral, his son, Andrei (Anghel Damian) initiates an investigation of his own in an attempt to clarify the strange circumstances of his father’s death.
The young widow (Cristina Florea) and the prosecutor in charge of the case (Adrian Titieni) don’t encourage his attempt and, apparently, they seem to be partners in a terrible crime. Each character seems to have a past and a hidden agenda or occult thoughts. The mystery plot, Andrei’s attempt to put together the clues in order to obtain an acceptable truth, contribute to the construction of an extremely topical atmosphere. Andrei assumes that his judge-father could have been killed in a mob-like attempt to thwart the justice system.
The judge (Vlad Ivanov) appears on screen exclusively in the flashback scenes that trace his movements in the last day of his life, in accordance with Andrei’s investigation.
Unfortunately, since the viewer doesn’t have a revelation following Andrei’s private investigation, the movie trails off. Not even the investigation of the protagonist manages to catch the attention of mystery aficionados. In trying to ignore the sluggish pace of events, the viewer loses focus especially since the essence of the story is scattered, at times, by long, sometimes pointless, situational dialogue and by stilted lines. The actors cannot give depth to their characters simply because the script doesn’t allow such exploration. The dialogue is simplistic and doesn’t have an essential plot load.
In fact, a script that has the real purpose of capturing and analyzing the pain of losing a loved one or revealing the father-son relationship, should have been more analytical and provide the talented cast with genuine tools to develop the characters. This doesn’t happen, unfortunately.
The pain of the young widow is not really conveyed from the few scenes in which the character weeps or narrates the events that took place in the final day of the late judge’s life. The pain of the son seems to be trapped under the rigid mask of an impersonal young man, aloof, completely lost and almost devoid of emotion to any experience. The few instances of Andrei’s outbursts, completely circumstantial and incidental, don’t lend credibility to a character that, most of the time, seems inert, devoid of response, ultimately frozen in a state of disbelief.
The father-son relationship is almost non-existent; the viewer is confused in the absence of significant details regarding the (distant?) relationship between the two. Andrei’s connection with his mother remains unexplored as well. She calls her son on the day of the funeral, but that’s it. Andrei’s failed love affair with his high school classmate (Olimpia Melinte) creates the opportunity for a more vivid dialogue and less perplexing scenes.
True, the long moments of silence of the main characters create a tension that becomes subtle with the help of the camera movements. The camera captures telling glances and gestures, the cinematography being a success, no doubt. In some sequences, the visual suggestion replaces the acting and that’s the merit of the director who manages to construct some scenes that contribute to a confusion of states and an ambiguity of feelings, in order to reach the objective of building a story that makes the viewer to take over, to complete it; a story constructed of unspoken words, thoughts and emotions, all mixed together in such a way that the result is pure human drama.
Again, the script leaves too much to the imagination or flair of the viewer, causing him to miss the point of the writer, i.e. a study in the drama of a child who lost a parent.
At the end of the movie, instead of meditation and empathy for the son, the viewer may experience a sense of frustration with his inability to penetrate deeply an otherwise well-narrated story.